Become a Chunker and Chunk Your Year
Yes, chunk. You might ask, “What the heck does that mean? Did you mean chuck, as in toss aside? Are you saying I had a bad year and should just forget it? Trash it? How would you know??”
No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying to be a “Chunker” and to chunk it. This is the perfect time of year to plan your 2022. 2021 was much better than 2020 for racing, and 2022 promises to be even better! If that’s the case, then you definitely need to chunk your year.
Here it is…divide your year into chunks. Three chunks, four chunks, or maybe five?
Chunk #1 – From now ‘til January 2.
So, if you’re reading this and it’s not January 2 yet, here’s the first chunk of only a couple of weeks. It’s the shortest chunk for sure. The goal here is to survive…but do something, anything ‘til the new year rolls in. Don’t worry about being strategic or specific, just stay active. Ride some, swim and run/jog a couple of times each week. Try, try very hard to shy away from those holiday cookies and snacks. Some of you are finishing up the “Off-Season Chunk” and you’ve been in that mode for a while already. Good. You probably needed it.
During this chunk, start to plan if you haven’t already, what 2022 will hold race wise. Decide on your “A” Race and then back up from that date, thinking in terms of…chunks. Let’s press on and hopefully, this will help you think this through.
Chunk #2 – January 2 to February 28
OK, so now you’re back into regular training doing a lot of work in heart rate Zone 2 to build a nice cardio machine inside your chest. I would refer you to the work, writing and coaching perspective of Dr. Phil Maffetone. Years ago, I bought into his take on the benefits of “Zone 2 Training” (using his formula for the Zone 2 heart rate) and committed to it for several years. It took me to a level I never dreamed of achieving. Google the doctor. Read. Watch. Listen and learn. The two months of January and February, if committed to Zone 2, can be a game-changer. Every minute spent in this zone can slowly but surely turn you into a cardio monster. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen.
Chunk #3 – March and April
Now, you start to build speed/endurance in preparation for race season. We’ll assume race season is basically May – September for most athletes.
If you’re a short-course triathlete, there will be lots of increased intensity work. You’ll be close to throwing up during your intervals and time trials. 20-40Ks on the bike at pretty much at top-end speed, followed by a 5K or 10K run as fast as you can…after a close to all-out .5 – 1 mile swim, well, it hurts. The only way to get ready for those races is to go really hard in March and April. Be smart and increase gradually but, you need to hurt (not get hurt) in training because, you’ll certainly hurt in races.
If you’re a long-course athlete, your focus in Chunk #3 is duration. You work at a lower level of intensity, but for a much longer period. If you’re doing say, a 70.3 in say, May or June, you’ll need to be hitting those long-distance goals by mid-to-late April, matching or going beyond race distances. I love the 80/20 approach. (80% easy, 20%fast.) You’re still doing a significant amount of work in Zone 2, particularly when it comes to running, but 20% is committed to much faster work. On the bike, you can do more than 20% at a fast pace during Chunk #3.
Chunk #4 – May through September
Now the fun chunk! Racing! This chunk is what the previous four to five months have been all about. Your training during this chunk is very specific to your key races. Use “B” or “C” level races as great training for your “A” race. More to come on this chunk in the months ahead.
EARLY Race Prep
What if you’re planning on an early season race and you live in Omaha or the Midwest or in general, the northern half of the U.S.? It’s cold. You’ll not be outside much. Indoor cycling technology is pretty amazing now if you’ve got a smart trainer but, if like me, you just want to be outside, it’s going to be tough.
Last year I did my first 70.3 (in sixteen years) in May. I thought THAT was early! This year, I’ve signed up for the Clash Miami 70.3 in March! Good grief! So, I’m already starting into Chunk #2, which will only be in January, then Chunk #3 in February and Chunk #4 will start in mid-March.
Miami will be just a “Welcome to 2022 Race Season” kind of event. Yes, I want to do well, but it’s a B or C race for me in preparation for Chattanooga 70.3 in mid-May, where I hope to qualify for 70.3 Worlds in October. We’ll see.
The point of all of this is to segment your year, your training and your races. Specific chunks have specific types of training with specific goals for each one. The way to end up nailing your top 2022 “A” race, is to plan now! Chunk now! Lay out your races now. Be a “Chunker” not a “Clunker.” If you’d like help in laying out a strategic plan for 2022, feel free to give me a shout.